Travellin' Troz - How NOT to travel to South America
How NOT to travel to South America (and still have fun)
Roz and Trond are a couple of middle-aged DINKOBs (Dual Income, No Kids Or Brains). After twenty years together, they decided to quit their jobs, sell their condo and head for South America by motorcycle. Can two of the most unprepared adventurers ever pull it off? Dog knows, but it should be a fun train wreck to watch.
Intro to Troz
I'm Trond, a 44-year-old white guy who, up to a little while ago, was living in Vancouver, BC, Canada. To be blunt, I’ve been a bum most of my life. I’ve never held a job longer than a few years as I get bored doing the same thing for too long. The good part of being a bum is that I’ve enjoyed a variety of cool jobs and experiences. I’ve been everything from a UN peacekeeper in Cyprus to a bus driver for five-year-olds. Life has been very interesting.
Roz is my wife. Unlike my jobs, I’ve stuck with her for over twenty years. I can’t help it. She put a spell on me a long time ago and I still don't know how to break it. A master office manager, she has worked for film companies, government agencies and more recently, dysfunctional non-profit organizations. While this blog will consist mostly of my incoherent ramblings, she will occasionally chime in with her two cents.
Oh yeah, and to explain the name "Troz"- a long time ago a drunken friend mangled our names and that’s what came out. As a collective moniker, it stuck.
The Trip – An idea is born.
We’ve been trying to get to South America since we first met. In 1991, we managed to get a 30-year-old Land Rover as far as Nayarit, Mexico before its frame began to disintegrate. Despite tripus interuptus, Mexico captured our hearts and we've returned a number of times. Recently we decided to finish what we started and finally go to South America. Only this time it would be by motorcycle. Since Roz had always been my passenger on various touring bikes, I asked if she wanted to ride her own bike this time. So she took a riding course to find it. She loved it! Then we took our bikes camping (http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=369134) and had a gas, so a plan was hatched: quit our jobs, sell the condo and hit the road. It seemed so simple back then. Boy, were we in for a surprise.
I thought a year would be enough time to get our crap together, but extra factors complicated the process. Selling our condo involved three months of prepping it for a "show-worthy listing", followed by another three months of showings. Earlier in the year, we had bought tickets for Burning Man, which would be the springboard to launch our trip. While this gave us a firm Sept. 1st deadline, it also meant we had to prep all the gear and costumes we'd need for a week-long freak fest in the desert. More importantly, with only a few months to go before our departure, we were still looking for a bike for Roz - while I loved my '08 KLR 650, she wasn't feeling very comfortable on her '05 KLR. Somewhere in the midst of all this, and while still working 9-5, we had to prepare for a year long journey to South America.
Suffice to say, a few things got missed in our preparations. Like buying a tent. Or mounting new tires (which arrived on the day we left). And perhaps most importantly, taking our fully-laden bikes on a test ride. Departure day (Aug 27/09) was also our condo move out day, so while I loaded up our bikes for the first time, Roz was madly trying to clean the place before the new owner showed up at noon. At 12:15, Roz came down to the parking garage and saw her loaded '05 Suzuki DR650 for the first time. She almost had a breakdown right there. "I can't ride this thing!" I assured her it would be fine and that we'd just take it easy leaving town. She wasn't impressed, but she's a trooper and got on her bike anyway. We both had butterflies of excitement as we rolled out of the garage and said good-bye to our home of the last six years. The dream was finally becoming a reality and we knew life would never be the same.
Ready to say good-bye to our home. Happy on the outside, nervous on the inside.
Too much crap never looked so good.
Where's the kitchen sink?
The Adventure Begins - Vancouver, BC to Burning Man, Black Rock Desert, Nevada
With little sleep and a frenzy of activity to leave the condo, Roz suggested we spend the first night at my dad's place near the border. It was a good idea as it allowed us a short hour-long ride to test the bikes and allowed me time to mount three of the four new Mefo Explorer tires. It was also nice to say good-bye to my dad and step-mom.
The next day we headed for the border and, in the line-up to cross, Roz's bike died. Crap. After a bit of diagnosing, I discovered that the new fuel line and filter I had added had an air bubble in it, preventing gas from reaching the carb. A little tube manipulation later, I got the bike going again and we made it to the border. The border guard asked where we were going and I said the Baja. No point telling him we were also going to the naked drug/booze art fest known as Burning Man - he may have thought we were weirdos (snicker). With a smile, he wished us a good time. As we crossed the border into the States, we both cheered. The journey had begun.
The next few days consisted of getting used to our rides, shopping at REI for tents and gear, and making our way to the Black Rock desert in Nevada. Unfortunately, we had a laptop mishap a few weeks later in San Francisco and lost all our photos from this time period, so - no photos for you! But you know what the Pacific Northwest looks like - green flora, grey skies and mountainous terrain. We turned inland short of Seattle and crossed the Cascade mountains on the Stevens Pass highway and carried on East on US Hwy 2. Leavenworth was an enjoyable stop along the way - a German town that looked like it belonged in the Alps. I had the first of many good micro-brewery beers there - can't remember what it was called, but it was a yummy cold wheat beer.
From there we headed South on Hwy 97 where my new GPS (276C Garmin) finally earned its keep. Coming in late into Yakima, I did a search for accommodations and found the Yakima Sportsman State Park. It wasn't on our map and we never saw any signs on the road for it, so both Roz and I were very impressed with the GPS. The ranger there was a Harley rider, former Navy man and fellow beer snob so we both enjoyed bullshitting with each other.
Hwy 97 took us further south. In Bend, OR at a Best Buy parking lot, we met not one, but two different motorcycling couples who we enjoyed talking to about riding and our trip to South America. We got some good advice on the area and even an invitation to stay at their home, but we were keen to press on. I was amazed at how friendly and helpful everyone we met were. (ROZ: It was also beginning to dawn on us that, at this rate, our ETAs were going to have to be seriously readjusted - by virtue of our mode of transportation, we were destined to attract interested folks who wanted to chat us up - can't say the same thing would have happened if we were driving an RV.)
After four days of riding and shopping, we finally reached Nevada and the Burning Man entrance. It was nightfall and the line up into Black Rock City was over two miles long. But we didn't care - we had made it. We were in stop and go traffic for an hour when another biker told us to cut the line. I tried to explain that we were polite Canadians and we didn't want to ruffle any feathers. "F*ck that!" he said, "This is America. This is how we ride down here." He then ordered us to ride between all the RVs and hippy buses. What could we do? We were in America so we did what we were told. Fun!
We managed to find our gang of friends and put our kickstands down with relief. After a mad schedule that had us go-go-go for the last few months, we could finally relax. It was the first time we had ever been to Burning Man, but our experienced friends were there to show us the way. I can't explain what the next week was like except to say, it was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. It was like Vegas for freaks, artists and yahoos. I fit in just fine.
Thankfully, many friends took many photos and I've pilfered a few to share. I won't try to explain them. It's one of those times where all you can say is, you had to be there.
Troz hit Burning Man. Let the freaking begin...
I joined an art car called the Board Room Table. You needed a suit to ride. We bellowed at hippies to get a job and told them that their gifting culture was not a sound business idea. Then we told them to clear out because we were privatizing the playa and turning it into a Starbucks. People couldn't tell if we were joking or not. Neither could I.
Seriously, I don't remember a thing.
Thanks to Karen for these photos.
END PART ONE
<input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden"><input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden"><input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden"><input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden"><input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden"><input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden"><input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden"><input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden"><input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden">
well, you sure know how to have fun you two :lol2
Epic. This one I will have to follow!
This could be quite a trip, perhaps I should keep an eye on you two.
Subscribed. You two look like a whole lot of fun!
Along for the ride
How NOT to travel to South America (and still have fun)
Burning Man to San Francisco
After a week of non-stop over-stimulation at Burning Man, we said a tearful good-bye to some of our closest friends and continued on our journey. Barely a half-hour past the gates, Roz signaled that she had to stop and rest. I sleepily concurred. We found some shade in a field in Empire, NV and snoozed for an hour. We were spent ad and found it hard to get back into travel mode. We limped into Sparks, just outside of Reno, and found a Motel 6 with our names on it. We spent two days there doing laundry, wiping fine desert sand off our bikes and gear, and eating like there was no tomorrow.
I had some maintenance to do on the bikes so we got hold of a friend of a friend in Reno named Michael, who offered his garage and house to us for a few days. It was total luxury. I did some oil changes, installed new handlebars on my bike and finally mounted the last of the four tires. Despite the work, my bike to-do list never seemed to get any shorter. I still had to research, buy and install communications gear. I had grip heaters, hand guards, throttle locks and a few other things to install. And I had to lose some weight off our bikes. We were terribly overloaded and I didn't like that. But we couldn't stay in Reno because we wanted to catch Michael Franti's Power to the Peaceful concert in San Francisco.
So we thanked our host in Reno and hit the road again. Roz isn't a fan of interstates, but our options were limited, so we got on I-80 and headed west. We thought the Black Rock desert was hot, but as we got closer to the coast, a heat wave roasted us on the searing asphalt. It was a tough ride for Roz, as she doesn't feel confident going fast on her bike and the tailgating truckers weren't making things easier for her. Occasionally, I'd find a road that would parallel the highway to give her a break, but for the most part, she just had to endure the ride. (Roz: And doing 60 mph on my thumper was like riding a gas-powered vibrator - maybe fun in the bedroom, but not on the highway!)
What should have been a 3-4 hour ride turned into a two day grind. The worst part for Roz was near Napa Valley where gusting crosswinds scared the hell out of her. We got off the interstate and rolled through small towns until we got to Oakland. That's when she saw the bridge. Roz doesn't like interstates. She doesn't like wind. And she really doesn't like bridges. Now she had to face all three. It took a lot of mental psyching-up to get her out of the Oakland Denny's, but eventually, we hit the bridge. Thankfully, it wasn't as bad as she feared (her imagination is always worse than the real thing) and we rolled into San Francisco by noon on the day of the concert.
A friend, Beni, had offered his place to us and we gratefully accepted. We found it in the slightly sketchy Mission district, unloaded our bikes and headed to Golden Gate Park for the concert. We got there in time for the last half-hour of Michael Franti, but it was enough. His positivity was infectious and Roz was happy again. So was I.
The next two weeks in San Francisco were a time of debauchery, sleeping in and working on the bikes. Beni and I rocked out to <leo_highlight style="border-bottom: 2px solid rgb(255, 255, 150); background: transparent none repeat scroll 0% 0%; cursor: pointer; display: inline; -moz-background-clip: -moz-initial; -moz-background-origin: -moz-initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: -moz-initial;" id="leoHighlights_Underline_0" onclick="leoHighlightsHandleClick('leoHighlights_U nderline_0')" onmouseover="leoHighlightsHandleMouseOver('leoHigh lights_Underline_0')" onmouseout="leoHighlightsHandleMouseOut('leoHighli ghts_Underline_0')" leohighlights_keywords="guitar hero" leohighlights_url="http%3A//thebrowserhighlighter.com/leonardo/highlights/keywords?keywords%3Dguitar%20hero">Guitar Hero</leo_highlight>, Roz entered receipts into the laptop and once in a while, we would play tourist in S.F. It was a good time. In hindsight, this was the real rest we needed after the past eight months of moving, Burning Man and I-80. Thankfully, Beni wasn't working, so we were all in the same mode.
Beni in the mode with Pasha the cat.
It wouldn't be a San Fran report without the Golden Gate Bridge.
San Fran is very progressive as far as motorcycles go. Only 25 cents an hour to park downtown. Nice.
Watch it - those buildings are sharp!
Rockin' out on <leo_highlight style="border-bottom: 2px solid rgb(255, 255, 150); background: transparent none repeat scroll 0% 0%; cursor: pointer; display: inline; -moz-background-clip: -moz-initial; -moz-background-origin: -moz-initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: -moz-initial;" id="leoHighlights_Underline_0" onclick="leoHighlightsHandleClick('leoHighlights_U nderline_0')" onmouseover="leoHighlightsHandleMouseOver('leoHigh lights_Underline_0')" onmouseout="leoHighlightsHandleMouseOut('leoHighli ghts_Underline_0')" leohighlights_keywords="guitar hero" leohighlights_url="http%3A//thebrowserhighlighter.com/leonardo/highlights/keywords?keywords%3Dguitar%20hero">Guitar Hero</leo_highlight> with Beni (a daily habit)
The first month of travel had driven home the importance of comms between Roz and I, so after some research, I decided on the Autocomm system. Greg at Marin County BMW spent hours helping me put together a system and I am so thankful for his patient help. While I'm handing out thanks, I'd also like to thank Wayne at Motoport for the Kevlar riding suits we had custom made for us. We both chose the Marathon jacket and Ultra II pants in mesh with quad armour. Bulky, but so cool in the heat (once you're moving). Both these men exemplify the meaning of customer service and to them, I raise a frosty beer.
Once I installed our comms and a bunch of other things, and reduced our loads a little, we were ready to say good-bye to Beni and San Francisco. But not before our laptop suffered a mishap (no need to go into details at this time) and we lost both it and our photos. It was frustrating to say the least, but such is life sometimes. So remember kids, back up everything!
END OF PART 2
<input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden">
<input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden"><input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden">
<input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden">
<iframe id="leoHighlights_iframe" name="leoHighlights_iframe" title="leoHighlights_iframe" src="about%3Cb%3E%3C/b%3E:blank" vspace="0" hspace="0" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" style="position: absolute; top: 40px; left: 0px;" width="250" frameborder="0" height="100" scrolling="no"> </iframe> <input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden"><input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden">
Travelling with Troz (a.k.a. Trond & Roz)
SAN FRANCISCO TO YOSEMITE
As much as we wanted to leave S.F., Roz was terrified at the thought of taking the Bay Bridge, so I suggested that we head south instead and if she was up to it, we could take the Hwy 92 San Mateo Bridge - and if she wasn't, we could drive all the way to San Jose and skip the Bay crossing altogether. Luckily, by the time we got to 92, she was willing to give it a go. It was good at first because a stalled truck had slowed traffic to a crawl, but once we were past, the speed picked up. (ROZ: So did the wind!)
The comms were very effective now because I could encourage Roz as we made our way along the windy, truck-filled bridge. She (and I) were very relieved when the bridge finally descended onto the causeway and the height issue was resolved. Not long after, we got to land and Roz cheered over the comms. We had made it out of San Francisco relatively unscathed.
Our next destination was Yosemite National Park. After two weeks in the grungy Mission district, we needed some serious nature and Yosemite didn't disappoint. We found a lovely campsite at Crane Flat and basked in the greenery around us. Over the next few days, we went on little missions to see what we could see. Roz was happy to leave her bike in camp and double on my bike so we made good time riding along winding roads that revealed jaw-dropping vistas around each corner. For me, it was nice to ride without having to worry about Roz. It also allowed me to pick the speed up a little, though you don't need much to make it challenging. I had heard about the endless lines of RVs blocking the roads of Yosemite, but being there off-season was great as the roads were mostly deserted. Saweet!
Arriving in Yosemite.
At Tunnel View, Roz demonstrates that the Yosemite Valley is only this big. (El Capitan is behind her to the left).
In Wawona, we visited the Mariposa grove filled with majestic Sequoias. Living in B.C., we thought we had seen big trees, but these were monsters. Yes, that's Roz at the bottom.
Being polite Canadians, we do whatever signs tell us to do - or be.
Faster than a standing tree, it's Super Dork!
Back in Yosemite Valley, the views never disappoint.
Another day, we rode up to Glacier Point. This is the only way to keep the other tourists away from you.
I tried to push Roz off, but she managed to climb back up. Next time.
While camping at Crane Flat, we met two other motorcyclists - both on old BMW airheads. Charlie from DC (http://www.wanderlustride.com/) was on his way down to Tierra del Fuego like us and Neil, from Louisiana, had just ridden from the Arctic and was slowly making his way home. We all enjoyed each others company and had a lot of laughs.
Neil (aka Home Slice)
We were all intending to leave Yosemite the same day when we woke up to this.
The sun umbrella wasn't working, but the coffee was good.
The snow and mist made for nice atmosphere.
As luck would have it, snow had shut down the Tioga Pass - our route out of there. None of us wanted to backtrack west, so instead, we all headed down to the Valley where it was warmer to wait out the snow. The next day around noon, they opened the pass. Charlie, being a seasoned biker, left while we were still packing up, but a couple of hours later, we left too. Neil decided to to go hiking that day and would leave the next day.
At Olmsted Point, we were chilled, but the road was clear.
The trees are a little shorter up here in the nose-bleed section.
There were reports of snow and ice patches on the Tioga Pass, but frankly, I didn't believe it. I don't know why, but I just figured it would melt by the time we got there. I was wrong. Roz and I came around a corner near the Tuolumne Meadows (around 9,000 ft elevation) to discover a narrow line of ice down the yellow line. I warned Roz to slow down, and then I hit an icy section that crossed the whole road. I tried to go limp and make zero inputs, but my back end still did a little wiggle on the ice that made my heart stop. Just as quickly, the ice ended and the bike stabilized. I watched my mirrors as Roz slowly crossed the ice with no problem. We discussed the options over the comms and decided that we'd go slow and if it got impassable, we'd turn around.
For the most part, the icy patches were just in our lane as the sun had melted and dried the on-coming lane. So I'd have Roz pull over while I checked out the road. When I got ahead of an ice section, I'd use the comms to clear her into the other lane. I was so glad we had the comms. But sometimes, the ice would be across the whole road so I suggested we ride the snowy shoulders. I went first and the traction was good. I told her to use my tracks, but that was a mistake as it was slippery by the time Roz hit it. I watched my mirror as Roz's back end came out, but like a pro, she dabbed the ground with her foot and righted herself. I was so proud of her and told her so. She said she didn't even remember putting her foot down.
There was one long section where we couldn't even use the shoulder of the road so I led us into a field next to the road. The snow was only a couple of inches deep so it wasn't too bad. I was so glad that the previous summer, me and some buddies had taken Roz out on her new DR200 for some off-road riding on some terrible logging skidder trails. I think that experience helped prepare her for this mild off-road riding. Eventually, we got past these icy sections and the road began to descend from 10,000 feet to warmer elevations. We left the park with a sigh of relief and chilled bones.
Just outside the park, the terrain was outstanding as we continued to descend.
As the sun began to set, we finally got to hwy 395 and were treated to a magical view of Mono Lake.
Pretty as it was, Roz and I only wanted one thing now - to go South. These Canadians had had enough of the cold - it was time for heat. A couple of hours later, we got into Mammoth Lakes and found a hotel with a hot tub and a great restaurant nearby. It was the most epic day of our trip so far and I was very proud of Roz. She had handled her bike like a pro and kept pushing forward. "What else was I going to do?" she asked. That's my girl.
END PART 3<input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden"><input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden"><input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden">
Great posts - looking forward to the next installment.
Looked good, till the icy wet stuff.... keep going south!! Thanks for the enjoyable update! :jkam
I am in..................
I wouldn't miss this one for the world!
We met you in the Best Buy parking lot in Bend and invited you to stay over at our place. Got you email on the report. Will follow it faithfully. Looks like you're having a great time. I'm jealous! Keep the report coming along with the great pictures.
Travelling with Troz (a.k.a. Trond & Roz)
Okay, it's time for me to 'fess up. While reviewing this blog, Roz commented that I seemed to remember all of her challenges, but somehow forgot my own. So without further ado - some of my finer f-ups.
On day one of the journey, while Roz wasn't around, I tried to get on my bike in our underground garage. My usual technique for mounting a fully loaded bike is to kick my leg out karate style over the seat and then hop over on one leg onto the bike. However, I had never tried that before wearing my new bulky Motoport pants. When I kicked my leg out, my boot didn't clear the seat and it got hung up instead. I fell backwards with a thud on the concrete (good thing I had my helmet on). To complicate matters, I had knocked the bike a little and it teetered, threatening to fall over on me. Shrieking like a little girl, I jumped up and saved it before the bike passed the point of no return. Phew! That would have been classic to get crushed by my own bike before even starting the journey. Why I told this to Roz afterwards, I don't know. (ROZ: Cuz you're such a HAM - you'll do anything to make me laugh - even tell me a humiliating story that nearly had me wetting my pants).
On day two of the journey, waiting in line for the border crossing into the U.S., I just about dropped my bike, but managed to just save it. These things are heavy!
And then, on the side of the road while airing up our tires just after we left Burning Man , I somehow knocked my bike over into Roz's bike. Luckily, it didn't knock hers down, but I did put a dent into her oil cooler.
Now to even the score a little, I will share the funniest drop. Funny because this time Roz did it. North of Bend, OR, I pulled over to the side of a quiet road to have a word with Roz. She pulled up to the side of me, but discovered she couldn't put her feet down. Eeek! Her bike fell over onto mine and then we both fell to the ground. FACK!! A guy on a Harley pulled up to see if we were okay, and when he saw that we were, he roared off. Thanks for nothing buddy! A few seconds later, a couple of dudes in a truck pulled over and helped us pick up our way-too-heavy bikes. Thanks guys - we appreciated it.
And now, back to our story.
When the going gets tough - the tough find a hotel. Trip planning inside the Mammoth Lakes Econolodge, after a well-earned hot tub and a delicious dinner.
DEATH VALLEY DAZE
We woke up in Mammoth Lakes with frost on our bikes. Glad we were hoteling it. We put all the liners into our Motoport riding gear and hit the road. We were nice and toasty for the first hour, but by the time we rolled into Bishop for lunch, we were getting too warm and had to lose our liners. Bishop was a quaint, small town with stunning views of the Sierra Nevadas to the West and the White Mountains to the East. Outside a motorcycle store, where I picked up some oil for the KLR, I spotted an older fellow scoping out our bikes. He was an avid dual sporter and had both a quad and an XR-650 in the trailer behind his camper. His name was Roger and as soon as we told him we were headed for Death Valley, he began pulling out maps to show us the must-see spots. After an hour of yakking, he generously gave us his book of California desert off-road destinations. Then when he discovered we hadn't visited the famous Erick Schat's Bakery in Bishop, he insisted we check it out with him. Always on the lookout for good fresh-baked bread, we happily agreed.
Another couple of hours passed at the bakery eating ice cream and discussing politics. When it was obvious that we wouldn't be going much farther that day, he suggested a lovely campground just south of Bishop. We parted good friends and only afterwards realized that we hadn't exchanged emails. D'oh! At this rate, it was feeling like we'd never leave California, let alone the U.S. Luckily, we really weren't in a hurry - we truly had the luxury of time to enjoy the company of so many interesting people. Everyone we've met has been so nice and helpful. As a closet lefty (even if I was a Canadian and U.N. soldier), I never thought I'd say this, but during this trip, I have come to love the American people. Despite the politics of their country, deep down most of them are good, caring people. Sure, there are some dipshits that I'd like to backhand, but I think I could find those types anywhere in the world.
Camping near Bishop.
The next day we entered Death Valley from Big Pine. On the advice of Roger, we took Hwy 168 east to the Saline Valley Road - a rough, dirt, washboard road that pummelled our kidneys. But we endured the ride because thirty odd miles down this hundred mile road was a little oasis called the Saline Valley Warm Springs - a clothing optional area of hot tubs. Renown for its eccentric nude characters and its lovely stonework tubs, this place was heaven on earth - to us anyways, but then again, we don't need much excuse to drop our drawers.
Roz on Hwy 168 looking for the Saline Valley Road.
We soon found it.
Tires got aired down...
...and we hit the road. So beautiful.
The next few days were spent in blissful joy. We met several old-timers who had been coming there for over thirty years. A fella named Saw Jim (everyone there had some kind of moniker) had been coming to the palm-tree shaded springs for over fifty years! The place was full of interesting history (Charles Manson used to frequent the pools) and beautiful animals. A trio of coyotes came around most mornings for scraps while a couple of wild burros would check out new visitors. The Ranger, Lizard Lee, maintained a small patch of green grass under the palm trees. It truly was an oasis to lay on that grass during the hottest time of the day. And the stone work by dozens of people over the years made for a strikingly beautiful natural spa. (ROZ: Just when it felt like we were thousands of miles from "civilization", a couple of extremely low-flying jet fighters would scream overhead - practicing their maneuvers from the nearby airbase. I found them excrutiatingly loud and annoying, but Trond loved it.) What can I say - it's not often you get to watch F-18's scream overhead at tree-top height as they hit their after-burners. Cool!
Are those palm trees in the middle of the desert?! Yup.
One morning we went for a morning walk to the nearby airstrip. Love that clean desert air.
It makes you get naked and crazy! (these shots have been sanitized for Roz's dad and our red state viewers)
There are less shady springs a half mile up the road, which aren't as crowded...
...but the main springs have nicer showers and facilities. Avert your eyes!
ATGATT naturalist style.
While we could have stayed there forever, our food supplies were dwindling, so after four blissfull days, we had to leave. We woke up before the sun one day with the best of intentions of hitting the road while it was cool. But, as is often the case during these adventures, that was not to be. Roz's bike wouldn't start. Dang. With the help of a multi-meter and a couple of helpful Bobs (Silver and Plain), we finally diagnosed a broken safety switch on Roz's clutch. I bypassed the circuit, but by the time we hit the road, it was 10 a.m. and it was already HOT. Waving good-bye to our new friends, we motored on, hoping to get out of the hot valley as soon as possible. We were on the rough road for an hour or so when Roz got a flat. Double Dang.
Roz said she saw a big rock and managed to get her front wheel past it, but the rear wheel hit it squarely with a thud. The result: a snake bite puncture where rock met rim. It was now noon with sweltering heat in the high 90s. I put up two tarps for shade - one for me and her bike and another for Roz to make lunch under.
It's a dry heat.
It was hot, sweaty work, but I was glad I had practiced spooning off tires in the comfort of home before the trip. The desert is no place to learn how to change tubes. After a couple of hours, the job was done, I had eaten and Roz had catnapped. I could see she was in rough shape with the heat so I suggested that we wait in the shade a while, but she just wanted to get back on the road. The air would cool her down once she got moving and the focus of riding would keep her mind off the heat.
We got back on our bikes and sure enough, the airflow through our mesh was immediately refreshing. After another hour of rough valley road, we began to ascend out of the valley in a series of switchbacks. Sand in the road had challenged us earlier, but we had managed to motor through it. Then Roz met sand in a corner and almost hit a rock wall. Once again she managed to save it and stay upright, but it had shaken her confidence. This day had been the biggest challenge yet for Roz and I knew she wasn't enjoying it. That saddened me, because I was having a blast. Even the flat tire had been a stangely enjoyable challenge, but we all face adversity in different ways. I reminded myself that I had been riding for thirty years and Roz for only one. I couldn't imagine me doing a trip like this when I started. (ROZ: Interestingly enough, after Trond had fixed my safety switch problem earlier that day, Silver Bob had reminded us that "the difference between adventure and adversity was attitude". True enough, but this was starting to feel like an "adventuristy" to me and my good/bad attitude reflected that. Plus, seeing Trond coping like the warrior he is and smugly smiling through it all only annoyed me more! Aaaaaarrgghhh!)
Out of the Saline Valley, we celebrated the view of the breathtaking Panamint Valley.
Roz motoring on, accompanied by Joshua trees on either side of the road.
We talked a lot on the comms as we made our way towards the blessed paved road of Hwy 190. Roz was having doubts about being able to do this all the way down to South America. When we first discussed this trip, she wanted to do it by four-wheel drive, whereas I wanted to motorcycle. I won the debate, but now my victory was coming back to haunt me. If she was never 100% into doing it by motorcycle, should I have pushed my agenda? My heart was sinking with the awareness of where this might be headed. I told her we didn't have to make any decisions now.
Pavement finally saved the day and, after airing the tires back up, we headed east to Panamint Springs. We found a campground and restaurant and called it a day. We both devoured huge hamburgers. It's hard to believe that Roz used to be a vegetarian, but a day like this can build up anyone's appetite. As we sat eating, Roz began to quietly cry. She had gone through the ringer and was spent. She apologized (how Canadian), but I had to remind her that it had been my idea to stick her on a bike. The camping trip a year earlier in no way prepared her for what was to come. How could she know what it was like to ride a fully loaded bike around trucks, towering bridges and grinding dirt roads. The fact of the matter is, motorcycle touring is hard - physically, mentally and emotionally. This was no pool-side vacation in Puerto Vallarta. (ROZ: For the record, that hamburger was my first meal of the day - not counting a power bar at 8:00 a.m. - and I was crying for the life of the delicious animal I was so thoroughly enjoying. The tears of a guild-ridden meat-eater ... okay, and a completely exhausted person who had been challenged more in one day than some people are in a lifetime - at least that's what it felt like to me. Whaaaaaa....)
I then suggested that there was no reason we couldn't switch to one bike if she still wanted to travel that way. We'd see how it went the next couple of weeks and, before we crossed into Mexico, we would decide what to do. That picked her up and took off some of the pressure.
The following morning, we rode to Furnace Creek and set up camp. The next few days were spent exploring Death Valley two-up on my bike. One day we went to Scotty's Castle, a smaller, less gaudy version of William Randolph Hearst's Sam Simeon castle. It was a a beautiful piece of architecture and well worth the tour that brought to life some of the rich history and colourful characters of the place. On the way back we stopped at the Ubehebe Crater. There was a super strong wind at the top of the crater, which added to the whole "other-wordly" feel of the crater. Since rain was forecast for the next couple of days (yes, Death Valley can get up to a whopping 2 inches of rain per year), we decided NOT to explore any of the cool canyons in case flash floods swept us away. Instead, we just relaxed and took it easy.
Our camp at Furnace Creek.
A Road Runner in our camp. Not as big as the cartoons suggest, but just as fun to watch when they run.
Near the Furnace Creek airfield.
At the Ubehebe Crater, the wind was howling.
And she calls me a ham.
The ride back to our camp was stellar.
On the day we left Death Valley, we woke up before sunrise to ride two-up to Dante's View. We stopped at some other spectactular landscapes (Twenty Mule Team Canyon, Zabriskie Point) before heading back to camp, loading up, and heading south.
Dante's View at dawn.
Twenty Mule Team Canyon was like riding on the moon.
The views at Zabriskie Point were just as mesmerizing.
On the ride out of the park, we stopped at the Devil's Golf course, an awesome lunar-type landscape with an extremely rough surface of large salt crystals. I didn't read the sign which warned of hurting yourself if you fell and, while posing for a self-timed photo, I fell. Groan. Getting hurt sucks. Good thing I had on all my Kevlar/quad armour gear or I may have injured myself even worse.
The Devil's Golf course.
Next stop was Natural Bridge Canyon (the name kinda says it all).
Final stop was Badwater, the lowest point in the United States. Very HOT!
We departed Death Valley thoroughly enchanted, vowing to return another day. It's a truly magical place.
END PART 4<input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden"><input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden">
This is very entertaining and it's only page 1! I'm in!! :thumb
|Times are GMT -7. It's 06:23 PM.|
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.5
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright ADVrider 2011-2014